Driving home from the gym, I heard that Barack Obama’s team has already begun talks with Prime Minister Stephan Harper’s office. Harper had called up Obama to congratulate him on his victory, and during their brief discussion, a few issues were raised. A few are now speculating that NAFTA renegotiation has been taken off the table. If true, this would be the first promise Barack Obama has broken to his supporters. Analysts are already discussing what could happen during their first sit down…
His comments prompted fears that he might be seeking major changes to an agreement that has benefited Canada, which sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States and is the largest U.S. supplier of energy… Speaking in April, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that if NAFTA were to be renegotiated, Canada’s role as a major supplier of oil and natural gas would put it in a strong position. “The prime minister was stating the obvious,” said (Stockwell) Day, adding that Obama’s desire to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil “automatically puts things back into a North American context”. He referred to Canada’s tar sands, which represent the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East.
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told Reuters in an interview that the Canadian government would begin working President-elect Barack Obama’s staff quickly on the key issues of the environment and cross-border trade… The biggest potential for disagreement is in Mr. Obama’s stated desire to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement to strengthen labor and environmental protections. Canada has warned that if NAFTA negotiations are reopened, its government will push for numerous other items… “Look at the softwood lumber issue. I think we were able to deal with that in a very expedited fashion,” he said, referring to a dispute with the United States over Canadian lumber exports.
Being in a good position thanks to the oil from Alberta’s tar sands, Harper may even be able to negotiate a deal favourable to Canada on the issue of softwood lumber. This isn’t simply NAFTA being pulled off the table, due in part to Obama’s promise to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil (without ANWR drilling if you remember), Canada might just get its way on a few issues.